CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (Reuters) – Suspected drug hitmen killed six people in Ciudad Juarez in northern Mexico on Tuesday, the latest in a killing spree that has left 41 people dead in the city since the start of the weekend, police said.
In separate attacks before dawn, gunmen killed six men, including a father and son, and dumped the bodies of two other victims in the trunk of an abandoned car, police said.
“They came for the father and the son tried to protect him and it cost him his life,” a police spokesman said.
It was the fourth day in a new wave of gruesome shootings in the city bordering El Paso, Texas, that saw gunmen kill 17 people on Sunday alone.
Tuesday’s murders take the death toll to over 500 people in Ciudad Juarez since the start of the year, making it the most deadly city in Mexico’s drug war, despite a large deployment of well-armed troops and federal police.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon, whose military-led crackdown on drug cartels has only increased bloodshed, said on Tuesday the surge in killings in places like Ciudad Juarez was due to local gangs battling over ever smaller smuggling turf.
More than 4,000 people have been killed in drug violence since December 2006, when Calderon began sending out some 25,000 troops and federal police to tackle drug cartels around the country. More than 1,600 people have been killed this year alone, a faster rate than in 2007.
The surge in killings this year comes as Mexico’s most-wanted man, Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, is locked in a fight with Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, boss of the Juarez cartel, for control of Ciudad Juarez and its lucrative smuggling corridor into the United States.
A breakdown in Guzman’s alliance of cartels from the Pacific state of Sinaloa has caused turf wars to flare, and tensions between Guzman and his former allies have erupted in a fight for Sinaloa, the northwestern states of Durango and Chihuahua and the western city of Guadalajara, Mexican and U.S. anti-drug officials say.
According to the Mexican daily El Universal, Monday was the deadliest day in the country’s drug war this year, with 38 drug-related murders, almost half of those in Ciudad Juarez.